When my family began to budget and be more careful with our money after I stopped working, one of the areas we had to hit hard was our weekly grocery bill. It took a little planning and several efforts, but we finally got to the point where we could meet our budget and still have enough food to eat for the week. There are lots of ways to save money at the grocery store, and here are some that worked for us. Each week, I make a menu that includes what we’ll have for dinner each night the next week. This simple step becomes the basis for our grocery list and ensures that we will have exactly what we need and not a bunch of food in the cupboards that I can’t figure out how to put together into a meal (cooking isn’t my strong point). Denise Schofield, in her book Confessions of an Organized Homemaker, goes a step further. She includes “menu selection sheets” in her planning notebook (ie. a Day-Timer planner). These sheets list all of the main dishes she routinely serves for dinner as well as their ingredients. This makes creating a menu, and a grocery list to go along with it, a little easier. I try to include one or two meatless meals and some “cheapie” meals in each week’s menu to help keep us under budget.
Another thing we do before heading out to the store is to check out the food ads for several grocery stores near us. We buy the bulk of our food at a grocery outlet type store (you know, the kind where you bag your own groceries) and then hit one or two other stores for the items on our list that they are having a good sale on. If a store is having a good sale on something not on my list, I may scratch a planned menu item and substitute it with a meal made with the sale item, or I may just purchase the sale item and save it for later use.
Price lists are another good method for finding the best prices at the grocery stores you frequent. With this method, you record the best price you have paid for an item, using grocery store receipts and ads. You can have a separate sheet in your price book for each main category of food you purchase. Take your price book with you to the store and see if you are getting a good deal on an item.
Most of the people I know, myself included, don’t have thousands of extra dollars hanging around just waiting to be invested. Much of what I have read about investing is aimed at people who have a substantial amount of money to invest. However, limited investing funds should not prevent you from investing. I have come across some great opportunities for investing smaller amounts of money. One valuable resource I have found that is good for both big and small investors is the American Association of Individual Investors. This associaton can help you become informed on topics of your choice and provide you with the help you may need to get started investing. Membership includes numerous benefits, including the AAII Journal, stock reports, and a year-end tax strategy guide. You can find out more about this terrific resource through their website at www.aaii.com.
A great way to purchase stocks with small amounts of money is through Dividend Reinvestment Plans, or DRIPs. You enroll in a plan by first purchasing a single stock in the company you have chosen (many, many companies offer these plans) and then completing the appropriate forms for enrollment. Once you are enrolled, you can make monthly fractional stock purchases with as little as $10, although this amount varies by company. Your dividends, as the name of the plan suggests, will be automatically reinvested for you. After time, your small monthly purchases and your reinvested dividends can add up to a substantial investment. One way to go about becoming enrolled in a plan such as this is through the service provided by Temper of the Times Communications Inc. For a small fee, they will purchase the initial stock for the company you have chosen and complete the paperwork on your behalf to get you into the company’s DRIP. I have used their service and was pleased with the results. It takes 2 or 3 months for the entire process to be completed. You can find out more about this service at the Temper of the Times website, www.moneypaper.com.
Money market funds are another option for investing smaller amounts of money, especially if you are interested in building up your emergency savings fund. A money market fund is a more liquid investment than stocks and earns a better interest rate than the savings account your bank probably offers. Bankrate offers a list of money market funds and compares their different features. You can find them at www.bankrate.com